DESA News Vol. 12, No. 01 January 2008

Global dialogue on development

Agreement on triennial policy review, climate change and modalities for Doha Conference at the Second Committee

Thirty resolutions adopted by the Assembly on the recommendation of its Economic and Financial Committee with another sixty from the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee

The Second Committee of the General Assembly concluded its 62nd session on 18 December having given a decisive thrust to efforts for the implementation of the internationally agreed development goals. The Committee adopted over thirty resolutions this year, covering a broad range of development issues.

Among the texts was a procedural resolution setting out the modalities for the 2008 Follow-up Conference on Financing for Development in Doha. This Review Conference will assess progress or setbacks in the realization of the Monterrey Consensus and reaffirm goals and commitments, leading to further action. The Committee also proclaimed the Second UN Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008-2017), after deliberating on the impact of the first Decade which ended in 2006.

Against the backdrop of the Bali Conference, the Committee passed a resolution calling for urgent global action to address climate change. Like the Committee, the Conference of the States Parties also acknowledged that efforts to address climate change should be carried out in a way that contributes to poverty eradication, sustainable development and sustained economic growth of developing countries by promoting the integration of economic development, social development and environmental protection.

The Committee – and one day later, the Assembly – also adopted a landmark resolution on the triennial comprehensive policy review. The resolution gives guidance to the UN development system in carrying out its operational activities for development at the country level, and covers many important dimensions, such as funding, national capacity development and development effectiveness, improving its functions and follow-up.

The Committee underscored that global economic growth and a stable international financial system can strengthen the ability of developing countries to achieve internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. To this end, the Committee stressed the importance of cooperative and coordinated efforts by all countries and institutions to cope with the risks of financial instability. The Committee reiterated the need to enhance the voice and participation of developing countries in the Bretton Woods institutions, and encouraged these financial institutions to take further and effective measures.

For the forth consecutive year, the Committee could not reach a consensus on the trade and development resolution. The voting reflects the growing difficulties that Doha round of negotiations is facing at this stage. The European Union voted against the resolution this year whereas it has abstained in the past.

The atmosphere in the Committee was generally congenial and only five resolutions ended in voting – the oil slick on Lebanese shore, permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people, unilateral economic measures, trade and development and the first ever Israeli resolution in the Second Committee titled “Agricultural technology for development.” This resolution would have the General Assembly call on Member States to step up efforts to promote technology development and transfer to developing countries under fair, transparent and mutually agreed terms. No country voted against this resolution. It was adopted with almost 120 votes in favour and near 30 abstentions.

For its part, the Third Committee forwarded sixty draft resolutions to the General Assembly plenary for consideration. Among the draft resolutions approved by consensus were texts on the protection of migrants, the girl child, and the Sub-regional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa. Drafts on a variety of issues including the right to development, the inadmissibility of practices fuelling racism, the use of mercenaries or the situation of human rights in Belarus were approved by a recorded vote.

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H.E. Srgjan Kerim, President of the 62nd session of the General AssemblyH.E. Srgjan Kerim, President of the 62nd session of the General Assembly, held an end-of-year press conference on 19 December. A recording of the event is available at (44 minutes).

Development Cooperation Forum gears up

To ensure a comprehensive consultative process in preparation for the 2008 Development Cooperation Forum, DESA is supporting the organization of a high-level symposium in Cairo on 19-20 January, in cooperation with the Government of Egypt. The symposium is the second in a series of events intended to explore ways of promoting results-oriented development cooperation in pursuing national priorities. The first high-level, country-led symposium took place in Vienna in April 2007.

Focusing on recent examples of how countries partner up to ensure an impact of development cooperation based on national priorities, the Cairo symposium will include sessions on the future of conditionality, South-South and triangular development cooperation, and the possibility of rethinking the current framework for assessing aid quality based on principles such as national leadership and mutual accountability.

Through country studies and panel discussions, the event is intended to promote open dialogue between senior government officials and representatives of other stakeholder groups, such as international and regional organizations, civil society and academia.

The Development Cooperation Forum is mandated to provide policy guidance and options as well as recommendations on practical measures to enhance the coherence and effectiveness of development cooperation. The Forum is expected to become a principal mechanism for global dialogue and policy review on key development cooperation issues. The first DCF will take place in New York in July.

For more information: http://www/ecosoc/newfunct/develop.shtml

Demand remains strong for consultative status

The NGO Committee will hold its 2008 regular session in New York from 21 to 30 January. The 19-member committee will have a heavy agenda this session with a review of 103 new applications of non-governmental organizations applying for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, 42 applications deferred from previous sessions, 135 new quadrennial reports submitted by organizations in general and special consultative status, 4 reclassifications, 6 deferred quadrennial reports and 1 deferred reclassification.

A new chair from among the African States and members of the Committee will be elected at the 2008 session to replace Colombia which has been at the helm for the past two years.

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New members, new views in ECOSOC

General Assembly elects eighteen members to the Economic and Social Council

The General Assembly held its annual election of eighteen States to serve three-year terms on the Economic and Social Council on 8 November. States receiving the required two-thirds majority were elected according to the following pattern: four from African States, four from Asian States, three from Eastern European States, three from Latin American and Caribbean States and four from Western European and Other States. The new members are Brazil, Cameroon, China, Congo, Iceland, Malaysia, Mozambique, Moldova, New Zealand, Niger, Pakistan, Poland, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, Sweden, United Kingdom and Uruguay.

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General Assembly adopts agreement to protect world’s forests

The new instrument eases countries’ long-term political commitment

Fifteen years after discussions began on a global approach to protect the world’s forests, which are disappearing at an alarming rate, the General Assembly adopted on 17 December a new landmark international agreement to safeguard this critical natural resource. The agreement, entitled the “Non-Legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests,” was negotiated in April last year within the UN Forum on Forests, serviced by DESA, and transmitted to the Assembly following its approval by the Economic and Social Council.

Hailing action by the Assembly, the Director of Forum’s Secretariat, Pekka Patosaari, said it “significantly advances efforts to monitor the state of the world’s forests and secure long-term political commitment to sustainable forest management.” While not legally binding, the agreement sets a standard in forest management that is expected to have a major impact on efforts to reverse the loss of forest cover, reduce deforestation, prevent forest degradation, promote sustainable livelihoods and reduce poverty for people dependent on forests for their survival.

Forests need to be protected because they are disappearing at an alarming rate, said Assembly President Srgjan Kerim, noting that over the past 15 years, more than 3 per cent of the planet’s forests have vanished. “The instrument we have just adopted thus expresses our will to respond to this alarming trend.”

For his part, Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, Sha Zukang, pointed out that success in implementing the instrument will require a combination of national effort and international cooperation. “At the national level,” he said, “forest issues must be integrated with other cross-sectoral issues, while at the international level, cooperation and support for a new, people-centered forest policy agenda must be enhanced.”

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Breakthrough on climate change in Bali

The agreed text does not, however, specify emission targets

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the outcome of the landmark United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia, in which 187 countries agreed on 15 December to launch a two-year process of formal negotiations on strengthening international efforts to fight, mitigate and adapt to the problem of global warming. After almost two weeks of marathon discussions, delegates agreed on both the agenda for the negotiations and a 2009 deadline for completing them so that a successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions can enter into effect in 2013.

Under the so-called Bali Roadmap, the key issues during the upcoming negotiations will be taking action to adapt to the negative consequences of climate change, such as droughts and floods; devising ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; finding ways to deploy climate-friendly technology; and financing adaptation and mitigation measures. Participating countries also agreed on a series of steps that can be taken immediately to strengthen their commitment to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, such as combating deforestation in poor countries, the scaling up of investment in green technology and enhancing funding for adaptation measures.

The text does not specify or mandate emissions targets, but it does say that deep cuts in emissions will be needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Secretary-General Mr. Ban called the Bali Roadmap “a pivotal first step toward an agreement that can address the threat of climate change, the defining challenge of our time,” adding that the agreement had met all the benchmarks for success he set out when the Conference began. The Secretary-General said he “appreciates the spirit of cooperation shown by all parties to achieve an outcome that stands to benefit all humanity.”

Mr. Ban's statement welcoming the Roadmap's eventual adoption was echoed by leading UN and international environmental officials at the Conference. UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer said Bali had produced “a real breakthrough, a real opportunity for the international community to successfully fight climate change. Parties have recognized the urgency of action on climate change and have now provided the political response to what scientists have been telling us is needed."

In his closing address to the plenary session, the Conference President and Indonesian Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar hailed the “number of forward-looking decisions” in the text. “But we also have a huge task ahead of us and time to reach agreement is extremely short, so we need to move quickly,” he said.

With an eye on the future, DESA Under-Secretary-General Sha Zukang reminded delegates that climate change is a long-term development challenge. “Within the framework of sustainable development,” he said, “the world has a way forward.”

Four major UNFCCC meetings to implement the Bali Roadmap are planned for next year, with the first to be held in either March or April. The negotiations process is scheduled to conclude in 2009 at a major summit in Copenhagen.

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